Reading the small print: a guide to wedding venues’ typical terms and conditions

Found your dream Scottish wedding venue? Here’s what you should know and expect when it comes to signing your contract with them, from deposits to postponements…

Artist's impression of the new proposed banqueting gallery at Broxmouth Park Dunbar
An artist’s impression of Broxmouth Park’s latest project. The venue is redeveloping its historic courtyard into a stunning, purpose-built wedding space

You’ve made the most difficult decision of the whole wedding process – you’ve picked a venue. Yay! Now, there’s the matter of the paperwork. So, what does a standard wedding contract between couple and venue look like? Every venue has its own approach but here’s an overview of what to expect…

The basics

“Our contracts cover the roles in the agreement; the payment details; cancellation and postponement terms and conditions; a statement of facilities included and their use; and what happens in case of damages,” explains Oskar Gilchrist-Grodnicki, who manages wedding and events at Dunbar’s Broxmouth Park.

“There’s also a statement of liability, indemnity and insurance; the terms and conditions applicable for third-party contractors employed by the couple; and those for commercial filming or broadcasting.”

Cedar of Lebanon at Broxmouth Park with wedding seating
The enchanting ancient cedar tree in Broxmouth Park’s grounds is the ideal spot for an outdoor ceremony (Photo: David Grant Simpson)

Guest numbers, hire period, house rules and start/finish times

A typical contract at Falside Mill in St Andrews covers the booking date and hire period, how many guests are attending, and the venue entry and exit times.

“Also included are music and bar finish times, the cancellation policy, charges, deposit, house rules, insurance, force majeure [which frees both parties from obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance prevents either from fulfilling that obligation], confidentiality and the privacy statement,” adds the venue’s David Burns.

Wedding areas at Falside Mill in Fife
The reception room (right) at Falside Mill can accommodate 200 while the The Mill Ring (left) boasts natural textures and copper accents

Take note

“Red flags should be raised if there’s no statement of liability, indemnity and insurance mentioned in a venue’s contract  – you must understand what these terms mean and what they cover,” Oskar advises. “If there is no statement about third-party contractors, I would strongly advise you to check with the venue before you book any suppliers.”

Expect to pay a security deposit

“This is refundable, and is normally payable before the wedding in case of any damages,” notes Oskar. “You should really have a good grasp of how that works.”

Something not look right? Talk to your venue

“If you feel there’s something missing that you’d like written into the contract, we’re happy to discuss this,” says David at Falside Mill.

“We want to take the headache out of planning,” reassures The National Piping Centre’s Helen Urquhart. “When you confirm your wedding here, a member of our team will run through the standard terms before you sign to ensure it all makes sense. If there are any changes, concerns or items you feel are missing, we’ll go through them and confirm in writing, to keep us all right.”

The exterior of Falside Mill at night and bride sitting at table at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow
Left: Falside Mill is bursting with quirky spaces in which to stage your day, including the Mill Ring, with its flagstone floors, exposed beams and dedicated entrance. It can cater to up to 50 guests; Right: The National Piping Centre’s trump card is the roster of expert pipers it has at its fingertips. Packages include a performer as standard

Check your venue’s flexibility on moving dates

When the first lockdown hit in March 2020, Broxmouth Park realised very early on that they were unlikely to host any weddings until the end of the year. “We spent the first two months reviewing our strategy and our contractual commitments,” Oskar recalls. “The biggest amendment we made was to include a clear statement of terms and conditions for postponements and an advisory word about taking out wedding insurance – once it becomes available again.”

“We altered the contract to state that we would always work to find a new date, with all terms and conditions transferable,” explains David at Falside Mill. “The deposit can also be moved across to secure the date.”

“We continue to be as flexible as possible,” says Helen at the National Piping Centre. “So far, we have been able to rearrange all our weddings. We host Zoom meetings to put everyone’s mind at ease that we’ll monitor the situation and keep them up to date as best we can.”

Wedding reception dinner set-up at The National Piping Centre in Glasgow
The National Piping Centre in Glasgow all set for a wedding dinner

What happens if you have to postpone or downsize?

Our objective is to work with a couple to come up with the best solution,” says Oskar at Broxmouth Park. “We can issue a refund for changes up to two weeks before the big day; for example, if the couple want to have an intimate reception now and a full-sized celebration on their anniversary, we’ve been able to accommodate this.”

“We’re a very flexible venue and have held held several micro weddings. The couple would have half of the venue at their disposal in this case, which in turn would be reflected in the price. If they’d already paid the entire fee for the whole venue, this would be refunded and the contract would be amended to reflect the change,” says David at Falside Mill.

Draft and final wedding agreements

“We can place a provisional hold on a date for two weeks,” Oskar says. “This is when we issue a draft agreement for you to peruse. This two-week period gives the couple plenty of time to consider all the terms and think about the external suppliers they might want to hire. Once the details are ironed out, we then produce a final agreement for signing electronically. You’d sign this first and receive a countersigned copy for your records.”

Aerial image of wedding ceremony set-up at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow
The National Piping Centre in Glasgow will roll out the red carpet for your wedding ceremony

Take time going over the contract and read the small print

Think things through before you reach a final decision and sign on the dotted line. The venue’s team should leave you feeling confident and supported.

“In order to fully confirm your wedding with us, we need signed terms and conditions, along with a deposit,” outlines Helen. “But before this happens, we organise a meeting to give the two of you the opportunity to ask as many questions as you like, to make sure we’re the right venue for you. Try to make notes ahead of this so that nothing is missed.

“It can be things as small as checking which areas are exclusive to you and your party on the day and when the bar will close, to more pivotal details, such as when your final payment is due or when all the numbers and dietary requirements must be confirmed. Sorting this out in advance means you’ll have the stress-free day of your dreams.”

Oskar Gilchrist-Grodnicki wedding planner at Broxmouth Park
Oskar, Broxmouth’s meticulous wedding and events manager, is a stickler for attention to detail (Photo: Geebz Photography)

Paying the deposit, using PayPal or credit cards if possible

A deposit is ordinarily due once the contract is signed. “There are usually two more payments after this at Broxmouth: one on the year before the date and a final payment three months before,” says Oskar.

“Where possible, pay your suppliers using a credit card or PayPal – it gives you additional protection, especially now, when wedding insurance isn’t widely available,” he urges.